Athrun scanned the length and breadth of the Bruinen. No sign had the search group found of the Nazgul except dead horses and one wet, tattered, black cloak.
“Do you see anything?” Lord Glorfindel pulled his horse to a stop several feet away. The animal blew as it chewed on the bit.
“Nothing,” Athrun shook his head.
“The enemy had fled, milord.”
The elf-lord nodded after a moment. “Very well. Return to the city. I’ll inform the rest that they are free to go.” Glorfindel gave Athrun a friendly salute and trotted back upstream.
Athrun surveyed the water for several more minutes. Something in his gut told him he was missing something. Shaking his head, he moved further downstream. It would not hurt to be over thorough.
The rocks and gravel crunched under his feet as he walked. He had only his thoughts for company. Athrun paused to watch the water swirl and splash its way down a small waterfall. A deer raised its head, water dripping from its snout, to survey him warily. The elf ignored it and continued moving down stream. Once again, his attention was drawn to the water as if it was drawing him.
Thick brambles had grown up from the opposite river bank, letting their leaves and branches trail carelessly in the current. A large black object was caught in the midst. From his view point, it looked like another of the Nazgul cloaks.
Athrun set his quiver and bow on the ground “We’ll have to extend the patrol now,” he muttered as he waded into the waist-deep, chilly water to retrieve it. It took him several minutes to cross the uneven river bottom.
“By the Valar!” Athrun was shocked to see not a cloak but a seemingly lifeless body caught among the brambles. He carefully disentangled it and rolled it over. To his great surprise, it was an elven woman. A beautiful elven woman at that. He shook the last thought away as he carried her to the bank. She was light and thin – too thin – and the bones of her cheeks stood out in her face unnaturally.
Laying her gently down, Athrun put a finger to her throat. A faint, fluctuating pulse have him very little hope. He immediately focused on getting her to breathe. He gently rolled her onto her side; silently hoping it would dispel the water from her lungs. When nothing happened, he placed his moth over hers and blew.
She coughed several times, each time bringing up water and, once, a little blood. Her eyelids fluttered slightly before she lapsed back into unconsciousness with a groan. As he watched her, Athrun thought each slow breath she took looked painful. He picked her up with one arm under her shoulders and the other under her knees. His bow and quiver would have to wait unless he found someone he could send back for them. With his luck, everyone would have already gone home by now.
* * * * *
Ariel folded the last of the sheets with a sigh. The Houses of Healing in Imladris had not had a guest for many years. It was a good thing she supposed with a shrug. The young hobbit that now resided none to peacefully under her care was deathly ill. Lord Elrond had spent hours in the room treating him.
Stepping quietly, Ariel placed her ear against the door and listened. The rustling of clothing was all she hard for several moments. She sighed and turned back to the basket of laundry. The sheets needed to be placed in their respective closets. It was a chore she had done countless times and did not relish doing again.
“We need to find someone younger to do this. I’m getting too old to put sheets on the top shelf.” The elves of Imladris had long ago become accustomed to Ariel’s complaints about age. She looked no older today than she had looked on the day of her coming of age.
“Ariel!” The she-elf was thankfully distracted from her dull task.
“What is it Athrun?” she asked turning around. “Oh my!” She was met by the sight of Athrun carrying a soaking wet she-elf who looked like she was hanging onto life by a thread. “Where did you find this one?” She motioned for him to follow her as she moved quickly down the hall and into one of the many empty bedrooms of the Healing wing.
“In the river.” Athrun set her gently on the bed. “She was half-drowned when I found her.”
Ariel began bustling about the room gathering things. “Get out! I’ll get the details from you later. Go find Lord Elrond and tell him he has another to deal with.”
Athrun reluctantly did as he was told.
* * * * * Several Days Later * * * * *
Elrond closed the door behind himself wearily. He had not been prepared to care for two ill people at once. Once of them being a strange she-elf with a nasty gash on her head.
“How is she, my old friend?” Gandalf strode up next to him as Elrond made his way to his private library for some peace and quiet.
“She will survive. Though, I expected her to wake before long before now.” A worried look passed over his face. “She should have woken before Frodo.”
The wizard surveyed Elrond for several minutes. “That is not that only thing troubling you.” It was a statement as well as a hint.
“She is a Moriquendi, Gandalf; one of the Agarwaen. We have neither seen nor heard of them for many centuries. The calluses on her hands say well enough that she is skilled with both sword and bow.” Elrond sighed. “I fear what her presence may portend.”
“There is one other question that remains unanswered.” Gandalf nodded for he too had questioned her presence. “Why was she in the river when Arwen called down the flood? If not for Athrun, we would know nothing of her.”
Elrond sighed. “She is the only one who can answered those questions. Until then, all we have is speculation.”
* * * * *
A gold light filtered through her eyelids. The sound of birds singing and the low murmur of voices filled her ears. She slowly opened one eye, then, the other. Her gaze was met by a blue one.
“Oi! She’s awake!” The eyes bounced off her bed, jarring her and making her heard begin to pound.
“Peregrin Took!!” The sounds of an angry female cut short the laughter and pattering feet. “I told all four of you to stay out of that room. There is a sick lady in there!”
“We just wanted to say hello.” An oddly accented voice that had not a hint of fear or remorse in it answered. “Besides, she’s awake now. That means she’s not sick any more right?”
She vaguely wondered how long she had been asleep. She could not remember anything. When she tried to remember why she was sick, her memory was a blank wall.
“Milady?” Ariel stuck her head in the door to see if Pippin was lieing. “You’ve got four admirers out here who would like to meet you.”
Because she did not have anything better to do, she nodded and sat up. She was surprised to see four child-like men come bounding into the room and onto her bed. “Oh! Don’t do that.” She put a hand to her aching head.
“Sorry.” They all four chimed in at once.
“You slept for a really long time,” one of them leaned forward and looked hard at her. “Longer than Frodo here and that’s saying a lot!” He pointed at one of his companions. “I’ve never heard of an elf out-sleeping a hobbit!”
She laughed. “You must be Pippin.” The Hobbit nodded. “Who are the rest of you?”
“I’m Sam.” The chubbiest of the four raised his hand shyly.
“I’m Merry!!” The strawberry-blonde curls bounced as he nodded.
The one called Frodo smiled at her. “What’s your name?”
She paused trying to remember. “I don’t know.”